The Front Cover of the first “Protestant Alliance Monthly Organ”, January 1898, which replaced the “Monthly Letter”.
The early history of the Protestant Alliance is not well recorded. This is largely due to the loss of records which were burnt as a result of enemy bombing in the Second World War. It would appear that after some years of locally based effort by various small Protestant societies a coming together of these bodies took place around 1845 which resulted in the constituting of The Protestant Alliance. The Alliance was founded by Anthony Ashley-Cooper, the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury. The 19th Century saw the rise of two movements that rightly gave cause for concern amongst Evangelicals. On the one hand the Tractarians were working to introduce ritualism within the Anglican Church while Roman Catholicism sought to establish itself again in the British Isles. On the 14th July 1833 the Assize sermon preached at Oxford by John Keble had marked the launching of the Tractarian Movement while the Catholic Emancipation Bill of 1829 had given to Rome a new confidence. The Roman Church had been defeated as a power within the British Isles at the time of the Glorious Revolution (William III) 1688 - 1690 culminating in the Battle of The Boyne. It took over a century for her to recover herself. The various Acts of Settlement had guaranteed the nation a Protestant throne which in turn maintained civil and religious liberty. In 1829 the Emancipation Bill, which Lord Shaftesbury voted for, gave Roman Catholic citizens the right to vote and sit as
Members of Parliament. Shaftesbury reasoned that the Roman Catholic ratepayer was as much entitled to the vote as the Protestant ratepayer but with the Bill’s passing it soon became clear that the Roman Church was not content with equal rights but rather sought to make herself the National Church again. The first endeavour of the Protestant Alliance was the producing and circulating of a publication called “The Monthly Letter”. Initially its circulation was less than one thousand. By 1900 it had changed format and was published as “The Protestant Alliance Magazine” and had a circulation of 18,000 copies. Around 1853 “The Protestant Association” was incorporated into the Alliance. This society had been founded in 1779. Back in 1787 it had been active in seeking repeal of legislation relaxing restriction on Roman Catholics. A petition to be placed before Parliament had been organised. Many thousands gathered at the time of its presentation. That evening the so called “Gordon Riots” broke out. The Protestant Association was blamed for this civil disorder, yet records show that the Protestant Association published handbills appealing for calm. Likewise court records show that no rioters arrested were members of the Association. The strength of Protestant feeling in those times and throughout the 19th century is hard to imagine today. Such was the enthusiasm for the cause that once a duel was fought between the Protestant Association leader, The Earl of Winchilsea, and The Duke of Wellington. Fortunately neither was hurt.